This week's coolest thing, believe it or not, is an e-book. I think. I'm not really sure what those are, and I've never had one before. I'm an old-fashioned actual-book kind of guy.
Here's how it happened: I was watching "The Colbert Report" the other night, because I'd heard that one of his guests was T Bone Burnett -- an amazing musician, songwriter and producer -- who happens to be a huge deal in my estimation. So when he talks, I listen. Turns out he's just finished a project with John Mellencamp and Stephen King. I had to know more.
The story goes like this: John Mellencamp buys a cabin in Indiana, only to be told (after his check was cashed) that it was haunted. He learned the story about three young people who had tragically died many years before.
So he wrote it into a musical 13 years ago, just for kicks. His agent convinces him to send it to master horror writer Stephen King, who loves it. King punches up the story and tells Mellencamp that he's done all he can do with it and that they'd need more help with the music. Enter Burnett, who did what he does so well, fleshing out the songs and hiring an elite group of musicians to bring them to life.
And now it's an album, a touring musical, a novel, and an e-book called "The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County." I knew I had to read it as soon as possible, so I borrowed my iPad from work and downloaded it. Sadly, the only way to experience the story with the music is on an iPad, unless you go see it live.
If you're a fan of those dark old Appalachian murder ballads by Ralph Stanley or the Louvin Brothers, you'll get the vibe of this thing right away. And even if you're not, it's still exceptional. They had me on board with the story, but the list of artists who did the music are some of my favorites. Dave Alvin and his brother, Phil, who are amazing, play the brothers. Then there's Ryan Bingham, Taj Mahal, Kris Kristofferson, Neko Case, Sheryl Crow, and the great Elvis Costello, who plays the devil to absolute perfection.
"The Ghosts of Darkland County" is the most fun I've had reading anything in a very long time. You go from page to page, and the songs are placed at the appropriate parts of the story. You just tap on the icon when you get to it, and it plays the song. And what a batch of songs. I recommend you listen through headphones, because the soundtrack deserves better than tinny iPad speakers. You can buy the soundtrack separately, but I don't know how much sense it would make without knowing the story.
If you have an iPad, download this thing immediately; it's creepy, it's funny, and it's unlike anything you've ever experienced. And if you don't have an iPad, buy one. Or at least get a job where they'll let you take one home. This e-book thing could catch on in a big way.
In case you didn't read about it earlier, I've lost some weight. About 43 pounds worth, as a matter of fact.
Well my exercise plan, which involves lots of walking and a few minutes of daily cardio combined with intermittently lifting semi-heavy objects, ran into a wall recently. It turns out that my resolve to get in better shape goes right out the window when the temperature hits 100.
So I went on the old Interwebs and found a bunch of exercises I can do in the pool. As it turns out, moving stuff filled with air underwater has the same effect as lifting weights! I went to the neighborhood Target and bought a couple of those plastic balls you see in big hoppers in the toy department. They're crazy cheap and way more durable than beach balls. The whole project cost $6. Take that , multibillion-dollar-exercise-equipment industry.
One of the exercises is called the "Otter Roll." Basically, you take a ball, hold it in front of you, and rotate in the water like you're roasting on a spit. It looks goofy, but man does it work. The way I gauge the effectiveness of an exercise is by what hurts the next day, and after 20 minutes of otter rolls, not only do my abs and arms hurt, but now I'm afraid of otters. Those things are studs, apparently.
The other piece of equipment I recommend is a grandson, preferably around 3 years old. He'll want to ride on your back as you swim around the pool at his direction, going from leaf to other leaf to dead bug while he tells you to swim faster, like a pasty little Yoda slathered in slimy sunscreen, which only makes him hang on tighter. Do this exercise for half an hour, and you'll either be stronger or dead.
The cardio portion of the grandson workout comes when Oliver decides that he wants to jump off the diving board. At least he says he does. See, I have to be there to catch him when he jumps, so I have to tread water for about 15 minutes while he makes up his mind. I get to repeat this 300 to 400 times a day. At this rate I should drop another 20 pounds by the 4th of July.
The best pool exercise I've found is where you get the jumbo Target plastic play ball and sit on top of it in the water. Seriously, you'll look ridiculous doing it, but if you can stay on top of that thing for 10 to 15 minutes, you'll be exhausted, so it must be doing something good. And the added benefit of family members throwing stuff at you while you do it must be some kind of fat-burning bonus.